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Fringe DRC politician killed in foiled coup attempt – US business partner arrested | News24

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President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

  • Christian Malanga apparently died in battle, leading a foiled coup in Kinshasa, DRC.
  • His business partner, an American national, was taken into custody.
  • The coup attempt was broadcast live on Facebook by Malanga.

A fringe Congolese politician and his United States business partner in mining and cannabis ventures in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique apparently led a foiled coup in the early hours of Sunday.

Christian Malanga, 41, leader of the US-based United Congolese Party, was killed as his band of 20 armed men reportedly tried to force entry into the Palais de la Nation, the official residence of President Felix Tshisekedi.

Malanga’s right-hand man was Benjamin Zalman-Polun from Maryland (US) identified in earlier reports as an American cannabis entrepreneur.

Both Malanga and Zalman-Polun were partners in mining ventures and the fast-growing electronic cigarette liquids sector.

Zalman-Polun was one of those arrested alongside Malanga’s 20-year-old son in the failed putsch.

Malanga, who called himself “a problem solver who’s ready to end the corruption and political gridlock in Kinshasa”, broadcast the coup attempt on his Facebook page.

He spoke of “a new Zaire,” and they carried the flag of the Mobutu Sese Seko era.

Sources within the government told News24 that the armed men only gained access to Tshisekedi’s office. 

Earlier, the band of armed men raided the home of the former president of the National Assembly of the DRC, Vital Kamerhe, where two guards and one attacker were killed in a gunfire exchange.

READ | Death toll from strikes on eastern DRC displaced-people camps rises to 18

In a televised statement, the FARDC said a coup attempt was nipped in the bud.

Armed forces spokesperson General Sylvain Ekenge also called upon the public to freely conduct their business.

“We woke up to gunfire at around 03:00, it lasted for more than an hour, we could tell that it was a coup because lately, Kinshasa had been the safest place to live in the DRC,” said a Zambian expatriate working in the Congo.

President Tshisekedi won a contested second term in December last year against the backdrop of increasing insecurity in the eastern part of the country.

A week before elections, he enlisted the services of a South Africa-led SADC army the SAMIDRC, to take over from the East African Community (EAC) standby force.

The “blue helmets”, United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) are also withdrawing from the DRC.

This was the first coup attempt in the SADC region since the successful November 2017 coup in Zimbabwe.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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